Skip to main content

Centring on savings sells digital short

You might have seen a paper published last week by UKAuthority reporting that 40% of councils say they're not making savings by using digital.

Whilst I agree with much of the sentiment of the paper I noticed that Steve Halliday, President of SocITM commented on Twitter that perhaps it was "council accountants fail(ing) to count savings achieved through digital" and I can see his point.

I very much doubt that there's a single council that isn't making some sort of saving through digital, it's just that this information hasn't been collated or reported. After all, every council has a website, so this must be be providing some saving, in that it's preventing a level of what used to be referred to as "avoidable contact", so why wasn't this reported?

I'm not advocating the introduction of performance indicators that tie council staff up in red tape rather then delivering services. I'm just saying that when a council says it's making zero savings from using digital, perhaps it needs to look at the way it's assessed this.

This article isn't about savings though, it's about the wider benefits of channel shift, four of which I've highlighted briefly below:

  1. Increased Capacity

    A larger percentage of end-to-end digital transactions and a better quality of online information (something the publication of the LocalGov Digital Content Standards should help improve) mean that frontline staff providing the initial contact can spend more time dealing with residents who still want to use traditional channels.

    It also means that back-office staff can allocate more time to getting the job done and (if using a decent Customer relationship management (CRM) system) reporting what they did back to the resident quickly and easily.

    Perhaps you're thinking you can't have increased savings and increased capacity, but as with almost everything a council provides or commissions, there's a balance between saving the resident money and making things better for them which applies here too.

    The increased capacity that digital can provide across all channels gives an opportunity for:

  2. Better Quality of Service

    Digital provides access to information and services when people want to use them. Whether it's reporting a broken streetlight at midnight or looking up library opening times on a Sunday afternoon it's there when people want to use it.

    What can be overlooked is that the increased capacity digital provides can create a better quality of service for those residents who don't want to, or are unable to use digital services.

    So digital can actually enable a better quality of service across all channels, which leads to:

  3. Greater Satisfaction

    It's natural that better informed residents, able to use services or find information when they want will be happier. So obviously, better digital services make people who like using digital happier.

    If staff are able to devote more time to traditional channels then it's more likely that those who still want to phone, email or face-to-face will also receive a better service making them happier too.

  4. Greater Transparency

    Whether it's publishing detailed accounts or showing residents when, where and how things get fixed, digital provides operational information in a form much more easily accessible to residents than previously available.

The need to find savings is a driver for an improved level of digital services in Local Government of course, but measuring just one benefit is a mistake.

Making a change in any organisation isn't just about technology, it's cultural too and in my view, centring purely on savings sells digital short.


Popular posts from this blog

Digital best practice checklist

This week I finished the draft of a digital best practice check-list. It's not digital strategy, in fact I'm increasingly thinking organisations don't need a digital strategy, they need a delivery strategy. My draft has check-list of seven questions and recommendations, with one overall recommendation regarding best practice for delivering digital. Ideally it would be incorporated into a wider service and information delivery strategy. Below I've omitted the bulk of the content, the reasoning behind arriving at the recommendation from the question because it's still in draft, but here are the seven questions and eight recommendations: 1. Is the council properly promoting its digital services and content, to reduce avoidable contact? Recommendation: Establish a “digital first” ethos to the promotion of services and better targeting what, when and where they're promoted. 2. Are the digital services the council offers, especially where the design and

Carl's Conundrum of Internal Influence

I'm writing this partly as a reply to an excellent piece that Carl Haggerty published about the disconnect between internal and external influence and partly due to various conversations over the past month about how to make using tools like collaboration platform  Pipeline common practice. This isn't really about Carl though, or Devon County Council, or any other council specifically, it's more a comment on the influence of digital teams in local governments, or lack of, and how to resolve this. So here's the question that prompted this piece. How can someone who's been recognised nationally for their work, first by winning the Guardian's Leadership Excellent Award and who has more recently been placed in the top 100 of the Local Government Chronicle's most influential people in local government , "sometimes feel rather isolated and disconnected to the power and influence internally". First, let's consider whether is this a problem to

Pipeline Alpha

In September 2014, officers from 25 councils met in Guildford to discuss a platform to enable collaboration across Local Government. A "Kickstarter for local government" is the missing part to Makers Project Teams , a concept to enable collaborative working across different organisations put forward by LGMakers the design and development strand of LocalGov Digital . Based on the user needs captured at the event, LGMakers created collaboration platform Pipeline and by October people from over 50 councils had signed up . Pipeline is an Alpha, a prototype set up to evaluate how a Kickstarter for councils might work. It is a working site though, and is being used as the platform it is eventually intended to be, at present without some of finer features a live offer might have. So what have I've learnt in the eight months since we launched Pipeline? There's a strong desire to collaborate  LocalGov Digital isn't a funded programme. I wrote about how much it

Superfast highways

You may have seen this slide I put together to help explain digital transformation This week we launched a new beta service to report speeding traffic. It looks fairly simple but to give you an idea of what's happening in the background I thought it might be useful to show you the before and after. So here's the before and as you can see it's completely a manual process. Stuff might be recorded electronically but it takes someone to do something seven time to make the process work and send it to the parish or the district. Here's the after What this doesn't tell you is that it's basing whether the request is for the parish or district on three questions. It's also doing a spatial look up to find the parish and returning the parish clerk details using the Modern.Gov API. Because these are already part of our platform this is data that we currently maintain, so there's no additional work to keep this up to date and we've reduced the h

Defining transformation to a wider audience

For the past month I've been putting together a paper on the next steps of digital transformation, for the organisation I work for. I'm proposing we look at two capabilities and two business areas, and if approved I'll be writing more about it. It's been a great exercise in gathering my thoughts and helping me to define digital transformation to a wider audience and how it fits into the bigger picture of service improvement. Here's some of the stuff I've learnt or had affirmed: Transformation, digital or not, starts with understanding the needs of the user through research. This should be obvious, but in local government too often I've seen "build it and they will come" approach applied. It's unlikely a commercial operation would launch a new product without first researching the market, so why would a digital service be any difference? A couple of years ago I wrote how the phrase "digital transformation" was hindering digit